Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 12.43.47South Shields-based furniture manufacturer, Funky Chunky Furniture, is backing apprenticeships after building a successful business through employing apprentices from Gateshead College.

Kevin Johnston set up Funky Chunky Furniture’s workshop in the town’s Wapping Street two years ago and now employs two apprentices to help manage growing demand for his handcrafted furniture.

The company has taken on, Kieran Potts, 17, who is combining on the job training at Funky Chunky Furniture while studying for an NVQ Level 2 in Warehousing and Storage at Gateshead College.

Kieran said: “Learning a trade while working towards a qualification has not only given me practical skills, it has also given me knowledge and most importantly, first-hand experience of how a manufacturing business works. For a sector where the work is so hands-on but also requires accredited skills, it’s been a perfect training route for me.”

Once an apprentice himself at South Tyneside Council, Kevin recognised the need for highly skilled tradespeople who were also equipped with the right training to hit the ground running in a business environment.

Kevin said: “Funky Chunky Furniture’s success relies solely on the high quality craftsmanship of our products – it’s a challenge to find people that have both the hands-on know-how as well as the commercial awareness, initiative and self-motivation that’s so important to the success of a small business.

“Both of my employees have gone through apprenticeships at Gateshead College and I’ve been very impressed with the quality of learning provision. The college has given me all the support I need to recruit the right people with the right kind of work ethic.

Having been an apprentice myself, I can appreciate how valuable it is to begin to learn sector specific skills from day one while developing specialist knowledge that will be applied every day. I highly recommend the apprenticeship scheme and recommend other businesses to consider taking on an apprentice to share skills and knowledge with the next generation.”

Chris Toon, deputy principal at Gateshead College, said: “It’s great to see that businesses such as Funky Chunky Furniture are backing apprenticeships. We work with huge range of employers; from large corporates to SMEs, they all require individual skill sets to run their businesses effectively and that’s where our vast industry experience comes into play, ensuring that our training is bespoke to a company and responsive to the changing needs of today’s industries.”

Photo Caption: From L to R Apprentice Kieran Potts, Funky Chunky Furniture Owner, Kevin Johnston and colleague Simon Cullen.